HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Man of La Mancha
HTS Overall Score:65
“Man of La Mancha” holds a special place in film history back when it unveiled itself in 1972. Not because it was a massive hit like everyone expected, but because it was considered one of the biggest genre flops of all time. Musicals had started on a steep, but steady, decline in the 60s and by the time the 1970s rolled around they were pretty much dead. “Man of La Mancha” had been a fantastic success on Broadway, and Dale Wasserman’s masterpiece was an expected home run coming to the silver screen. It had Arthur Hiller at the helm, with Peter O’Toole starring and the STUNNINGLY beautiful sexpot Sophia Loren as the famous Dulcinea. How could it go wrong? Well, like “Star”, the powers that be thought that a movie with this much stage credit and this many high-profile actors couldn’t fail, and the script pretty much went by the wayside. Looking back, “Man of La Mancha” is not NEARLY as bad as critics made it out to be in 1972 (it was a MASSIVE flop that garnered insane critical hatred back then), but it is still not the greatest musical by any stretch of the imagination.
The film is framed by the book’s author Miguel de Cervantes who is supposedly in trouble with the Spanish inquisitors (something which is not known as a fact, but rather a supposition for the fictional story), and has been locked away in prison. There the actor and author is set upon by the rabble who want to destroy his belongings (which somehow end up in prison with him) and especially his latest manuscript about Don Quixote. The other prisoners put in on “trial”, where he pleads guilty to be a dreamer and a fool, wherein he tells them his tale of Don Quixote in hopes that they will be merciful to him and let him keep his manuscript (we all know he’s going to win their hearts over in the end).
The story within the story focuses in the famous Don Quixote De La Mancha (Peter O’Toole), an aging Don who has pretty much lost touch with reality and gone off believing that he’s a “Knight” of the realm with his trusty servant Sancho Panza (James Coco) off to fight “the enchanter”. Like most of us, we’ve read the book or at least HEARD of Don Quixote and his famous fight with the windmill and other various machinations of his own imagination. Here we see the basics of the book played out in VERY short order. Quixote is up against the famous windmill before heading off to a castle (which is actually a dirt-poor inn) where he meets the lovely lady Dulcinea (a worn-out moo cow named Aldonza, played by the gorgeous and appealing Sophia Loren). There he flits around like a bird and impresses upon the worn-out daughter of the innkeeper that she is actually WORTH something and can dream a dream.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=95969[/img]At the same time the poor Don’s REAL family is trying to get him back into sanity. His niece is about to marry a prominent doctor, but he is ready to break it off because of her Uncle’s madness. That is until he decides to take it upon himself to cure the old man of his ailment before marrying his bride as a matter of pride. Thus this doctor sets out disguised as the Don’s arch nemesis “The Enchantor” to try and shock him out of his stupor and bring the old man back to reality.
“Man of La Mancha” was a FANTASTIC Broadway play. Dale Wasserman was charged with the screenplay for the film AS WELL as writing the Broadway hit, but for some reason the movie just didn’t translate over from stage to screen very well. Peter O’Toole is an amazing actor and his job as Don Quixote is not bad, but he seems strangely miscast, or at least misdirected here. His makeup and “fake old man” look is weirdly out of place, even for the 1970s. O’Toole gives a solid rendition of the famous madman, but doesn’t exactly seem ALL that mad. Mostly he seems aloof and kind of snobbish, without much of the insanity that Cervantes infused into the character with the novel. Sophia Loren is also out of place as Aldonza/Dulcinea. She is such a stunning beauty and so overwhelmingly sensual and intense that it’s hard to see the peasants ravaging her and abusing her so. She just exudes power and authority so the role of the beaten down and abused whorish scullery maid doesn’t seem to jive with her personal. It’s not a knock against Sophia, but more a knock against casting such a famously powerful female actress as such a supposed “weak” character. The best of the bunch is James Coco as Sancho Panza, who is delightful as the poor Don’s faithful manservant. His song “I Really Like Him” is the best of the bunch, but that’s not saying much as “The Knight of the Woeful Countenance” and “The Impossible Dream” barely flutters on the tongue, which is sad considering how legendary those songs are in the screenplay.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=95977[/img]“Man of La Mancha” appears to be from a rather dated master, probably the same one that the early 2000 era DVD from MGM was struck from, and while it isn’t a bad master, it shows some age spots. There’s a few flickers on the screen as well as some specks and dirt that show up on the print, but overall, it’s a fairly clean presentation with good detail throughout. The movie’s 70mm source shows a very earthy and brown color grading with a slightly dull and desaturated look that is kind of flat to the naked eye. The prison sequences are overly dark and dull, while the fantastical world of Don Quixote is a little brighter (although just as earthy) with some bright spots of color shining through (like the shields from the “Enchanter” as well as the beautiful red lips of Sophia Loren. Blacks are a bit murky and fine detail is GOOD, but never really that great except in the brightest of scenes.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=95985[/img]The 2.0 DTS-HD MA track is a solid experience, with a good and faithful replication of the theatrical experience (at least with my remembrance of the 35mm copy that I was privy to years ago). Vocals are decent and intelligible, and for the most part the ambiance is quite nice. There is some harshness to the upper levels and voices clip a little bit when they’re strained. LFE is mild to nonexistent, but the musical numbers show off the most prowess with the singers imitating the voices of the actors. I did notice that I had to turn p the volume a LOT to equal most other tracks (a full 7 DB on my receiver), which may attribute some to the clipping I noticed on the disc.
• Vintage Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer
• Photo Montage with Overture Music
“Man of La Mancha” is not prey to a single fault. There is a myriad of problems that plague the script from poor framing in the prison, to bad makeup, to actors who don’t look or sound even REMOTELY Spanish, to the sadly underwhelming renditions of famous songs. The film isn’t a BAD film, it just isn’t a very engaging or well done film. It just IS in the world of musicals. The three main leads give it their all, but there is not a whole lot to work with and it is almost like the powers that be thought it had too much momentum to fail, and just let the project coast along on its laurels into cinematic flophood. Shout Factory’s Blu-ray release is definitely from a dated master, but looks faithfully rendered and is one of the few musicals that I thought MGM had buried for good. I wouldn’t recommend it as a purchase off the bat except for fans, but it is a solid enough musical that a rental or cheap sale would not do good by. Definitely a nostalgic watch.
Starring: Peter O'Toole, Sophia Loren, James Coco
Directed by: Arthur Hiller
Written by: Dale Wasserman
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Studio: Shout Factory
Runtime: 129 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 25th, 2017
Buy Man of La Mancha On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Nostalgic Watch
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